Insights from Dean Benjamin Ola. Akande

April 15 is a necessary date for keeping this wonderful country we call America running smoothly.  It’s the day we have to pay for the car and upkeep of this beautiful automobile.  But just imagine if at 9 p.m. on April 14 you sit down to do your 2013 taxes and by 9:15 p.m. the form is done and ready to be dropped off at the post office. Although this is wishful thinking on my part, a flat tax could make it a reality. And this time of the year the flat tax proposal is looking much better to many taxpayers.

The United States tax  bureaucracy is the most sophisticated and complex tax system in the world.  The IRS employs approximately 125,000 people to manage a 10,000-page tax code.  It is a structure that has provided consistent results for many years.  In fact, we don’t give the IRS the credit it deserves.  

Today in excess of $100 billion is spent filling out all the necessary tax forms and an additional $100 billion is spent on investments made for tax-break purposes. Jobs have become the No. 1 export for America and some would claim that we are subsidizing imports and penalizing exports through our tax policy.

There is a growing consensus supporting the replacement of our tax system with another option that is:  (1) fair to the entire population, (2) supportive of economic growth and (3) able to collect enough revenue to sustain the government in the long run. A flat tax can replace the current system, which lacks equity, discourages economic growth and lacks revenue potential to meet future needs. Under the current code, only individuals with additional disposable income can take advantage of the exemptions and loopholes. For example, only those who can afford a home can deduct home mortgage interest. The bigger the home, the bigger the deduction.

And the middle class should be the most outraged. Fixed in higher tax levels without the assets to take advantage of many tax breaks, the American middle class has borne the brunt of higher rates and of secondary taxes on savings, dividends and capital gains.

A pure flat tax system will impose a single rate on businesses and individuals with no deductions or credits. To generate the equivalent current government revenue, the rate would be roughly 22 percent. The tax form would be the size of a post card. On the first line, taxpayers would be asked to state their wages, salaries or pension/retirement. The second line would comprise the standard deduction, to be subtracted from the stated income on the first line. The third line would reflect the taxable income (subtracting the second line from the first line), taxed at a flat rate. The flat tax would not tax interest and dividend income.

The flat tax system renders thousands of pages of tax code obsolete. It also provides an equitable basis for the taxation of all citizens, regardless of income. Under that system, savings and investments should increase, and the resulting economic growth would create new jobs. An increase in the demand for labor would bring higher wages. Expanding the tax base and rising incomes would increase government revenues. Tax receipts grow faster in a low-taxed economy.

It’s worth the consideration.

 

Owner, PhotographerAbout the Author:  Benjamin Ola. Akande is a professor of economics and dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology at Webster University.

 

Cybersecurity Program Expands to New Locations

On April 22, 2014, in Announcements, by Walker News

Will be offered in St. Louis, San Antonio, Orlando and Washington D.C.

Webster University’s Cybersecurity Program, which was launched in Colorado Springs earlier this year, will be expanded to four more Webster University locations. The announcement of the expansion was made just days before the Gateway to Innovation (G2I) technology conference taking place in St. Louis on April 23. Webster University is a platinum-level sponsor of the event.

One of the main topics of discussion at G2I will be network and data security. Webster University will host two discussion panels to explore different aspects of Cybersecurity. Webster University President Elizabeth “Beth” Stroble and other university representatives will speak at the conference.

“Webster University is proud to serve as a platinum sponsor for the Gateway to Innovation conference,” Stroble said. “Just as St. Louis historically served as a Gateway to the West,  Webster University, a truly global university, leads in developing innovative programs and partnerships to secure a prosperous future here and around the world.”

Webster’s George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology (Walker School) graduate-level program will be offered in the Washington D.C. area this summer, followed by Orlando, San Antonio and St. Louis.

The field is exploding with job opportunities. According to a recent report by the labor-market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, postings for cybersecurity jobs have grown 74 percent since 2007. In 2013 alone, the report said, there were more than 200,000 postings nationally for cybersecurity jobs, with an average salary of $93,028. That’s more than $15,000 higher than other IT positions as a whole. And because the number of qualified candidates for these cybersecurity jobs far lags the number of open positions, these postings tend to remain open much longer than other IT jobs, according to the Burning Glass Technologies report.

“There is a growing demand for employees who can manage complex cybersecurity programs for the government and for private enterprise,” said Tom Johnson, associate vice president and chief of strategic initiatives at Webster University. “We launched the Cybersecurity program in Colorado Springs because of a demand for it from members of the military there, and now we are expanding to other areas of the country because of growing demand from those regions.”

Barrett J. Baebler, Walker School associate professor and Management Department Chair agreed this is the right degree at the right time. “The foundation of today’s global commerce is built upon numerous channels delivering materials, services and data,” Baebler said. “Protecting the security of these channels is a top priority.”

Webster’s new master’s degree program in cybersecurity was established to help fill a staggering demand for cybersecurity training in the Colorado Springs area. The U.S. Air Force Space Command approached Webster to create the program because it has 1,400 employees who need training in cybersecurity.

“Webster University is continuing to be on the forefront of addressing the growing needs in our society and business community,” said Julian Schuster, provost, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Webster University. “Our uniquely designed Cybersecurity program is another prime example of  Webster’s commitment  to creating  relevant and highly-impactful educational  programs.”

One of the topics taught in the Cybersecurity Program – the security concerns created by an increasingly mobile workforce – will be the center of one of Webster University’s two panel discussions at the G2I Conference. Professor Ross Mayfield, an adjunct professor in the Cybersecurity program and a recognized expert in information systems and computer law enforcement investigations, will lead the discussion along with Jeff Villmer, senior director of information technology at IntelliSpend and Rick Powell, with information technology security at REJIS.

With its home campus in St. Louis, Webster University (www.webster.edu) is the only Tier 1, private, non-profit U.S.-based university providing a network of international residential campuses. Founded in 1915, Webster University’s campus network today includes metropolitan, military and corporate locations around the world, as well as traditional residential campuses in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. The university is committed to delivering high-quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.

 

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Richard Ludmer

Richard Ludmer, a 2012 MBA graduate from Webster University Vienna, is one of three business partners working to assist students who are settling into life abroad.  The business venture, Feels Like Home, is the brainchild of Ludmer and his two friends, Alexander Karakas and Martin Mössmer.

According to the team, the idea for Feels Like Home came about three years ago when the young entrepreneurs went through the process of setting up their own lives in a different country.  From visas to housing, insurance and more, their experiences opened their eyes to the number of different questions international students must address when they go abroad.

Ludmer, a native of Austria, said he chose to study at Webster Vienna because he had a passion for travel and he understood that his future career would likely have an international connection.  “The diversity of the student body, the excellent faculty and the small class sizes at Webster were important to me,” he said.  “I also used the opportunity to go abroad with Webster University, spending a term at Webster’s campus in Bangkok, Thailand.  The experience was fantastic for me, and it’s my hope that every Webster student makes use of this unique chance to study at campuses within Webster’s worldwide network.”

From Idea to Creation

The idea for Feels Like Home began when the team started giving personal, face-to-face advice to friends who were settling into life abroad.  Recognizing the potential of their idea, the team developed a business plan to create an online relocation tool and worked to secure funding through a grant.  “We presented our idea to a panel of judges, similar to the format of the TV show ‘Shark Tank’,” Karakas explained.  “The panel liked the population we served and awarded us the grant.”

feels-like-home-4Thanks to the funding, the team was able to create a prototype and eventually launch their complete online relocation platform that guides international students through the process.  Coined the “Step-by-Step Guide at feelslikehome.at, this tool gives students who create an account access to personalized information about Vienna before leaving their home countries.  In addition to the option of preordering a starter package full of necessities that the team will deliver to their new place, students have access to special offers on dining and entertainment through the team’s robust partnership network.  The other aspect of the company is a social component.  From organizing ski trips to city tours, cocktail nights and more, the team at Feels Like Home is helping students make connections in their new home.

Today, the website generates traffic from more than 125 countries, and this number continues to rise.

Webster Connection

Feels Like Home is headquartered on the campus of Webster Vienna.  As a result, Webster University students represent Feels Like Home’s core business.

“We help students every day,” said Karakas.  “We appreciate the support we have received from Campus Director Dr. Arthur Hirsh.  Without him, we would not be able to operate on the same level that we are on right now!”

Looking Ahead

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The Feels Like Home Team: Richard Ludmer, Alexander Karakas and Martin Mössmer

Vienna is an excellent home base for the business because the city boasts a large pool of nearly 50,000 international students.  Despite this, the team has plans to expand its services to other European countries.  “Our goal is to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for students, and the potential is there for us to grow our business,” Karakas said.

While the innovative approach of Feels Like Home is helping students ease into their study abroad experience, only time will tell what’s next for this Webster University based start-up.

hs-programming-3Nearly 75 high school students from the St. Louis area participated in the 11th Annual High School Programming Contest at Webster University’s George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology on April 5.  Together in teams of two to three, students put their computer programming skills to the test as they worked to complete a series of 10 programming problems in four hours.  Teams competed in two divisions, objected oriented programming and web programming, and the top three placing teams received recognition for their achievements.

In the object oriented division, Laude Horton Watkins High School earned first place, Fort Zumwalt South took second place and Lutheran South finished in third place.  In the web division, students from South Tech High School clinched the awards for first, second and third place.

“This contest is a fun way for students to demonstrate their programming skills, and schools take pride in bringing home an academic trophy,” said Brenda Boyce, event organizer and associate professor of math & computer science at the Walker School.

At the conclusion of the contest, Benjamin Ola. Akande, dean of the Walker School, encouraged students not to think about success in terms of money but rather how they can use their talents to solve problems.  “If you choose to pursue a career in computer programming, you will make money, but there is more to it,” he said.  “For innovators like Jack Dorsey, creator of Twitter, computer programming is about solving problems and helping people connect.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.”

Putting Employee Communication First

On April 14, 2014, in Book Review, by Walker News

credible compnayA review of  The Credible Company by Benjamin Ola. Akande, dean of the Walker School

Technology has revolutionized the way we interact in organizations and the ways in which we will do business well into the future.  From email to social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn, more and more industry leaders are seeing the advantage to the almost instantaneous and far-reaching communication tools now available online.  As industry leaders continue to embrace these tools to promote and sell their product, it’s imperative that they remember to keep their most important resource in the know:  their employees.

The Credible Company by Roger D’Aprix is an argument for business leaders to put their employees at the front of the line when it comes to communication. Penned by an expert internationally known for his communication strategy work with Fortune 500 companies, The Credible Company makes the case why information links with workers must stay intact, and how companies can strengthen them.

No longer are workers the cost of doing business, D’Aprix writes. In these times of resources, they are the means.  Added to that is an increasingly complex global economy where employees now work between companies and across borders.  As a result, employees have an increased skepticism about the communication they receive at work, and this not only affects their performance and output, but it erodes confidence and trust.

Preventing this is easy, says the author, who has identified several principles an organization can apply to improve communication, embrace employee enthusiasm and maintain trust among its workers. The acronym that pulls it all together is INFORMS - Information, Needs on the job, Face-to-face, Openness, Research, Marketplace and Strategy.

Scattered throughout The Credible Company are lessons the author has learned from his career in business communications.  Some speak to the the success stories while others serve as a warning for the mistakes none of us want to make.

D’Aprix’s experience at Xerox in the early 1980′s is one example. Just weeks after proposing a “full employment” policy that essentially guaranteed certain employees lifetime job security, D’Aprix learned of management’s plan to lay-off up to 15 percent of its workers. Overwhelmed by the reversal of policy but determined to implement a plan for internal communications surrounding the issue, D’Aprix found himself facing a leadership group who refused to talk to their employees. The results were devastating as rumors elevated the number of workers to be fired and media bombarded the company with questions.  The inability of senior leaders and communication professionals to work together created a problem that would send Xerox into a tailspin that would take years for industry leaders to later correct.

In today’s ever-changing world, this book offers a powerful message about communication.  In the final analysis, D’Aprix says the human need for communication in organizations can’t be ignored.  Organizational leaders must change their view that communication “just happens” and instead recognize the need to make it a deliberate and accountable system, like all other systems and process in the organization.  By doing this, leaders will be able to get through to their skeptical employees and move human energy in pursuit of worthy goals.

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firedIt is everywhere.  Companies are downsizing, merging and closing.  Jobs are short and candidates are plentiful. While this is good for a company filling a position, it makes for stiff competition for those looking for a job.  Instead of being able to implement a career change on your timing, it may be necessary to find a job until you can search more intensely for that career change.   

In this economy, it’s important for you to gather up your bills and do a financial assessment.  It’s imperative that you lower your monthly expenses immediately, unless, of course, you are one of those treasured few that received the million dollar settlement!

When creating your budget, list every expense that you have and find out where you can cut costs.  While cutting costs can be difficult, it can be done.

Once you have developed a budget and know where you stand financially, map out several action plans.  What will your plan be now that you are out of work?  Where will you start?

Career Change Survivor Action Plan #1 – If severance was not an option with your job loss, you may need to take a job to bridge the financial gap while you continue to look for a “real career” position.  It can be at a lower salary and will not look as damaging on your resume as a gap in employment.  Beware, though, that some companies will question your motivation to stay in a full-time position that is not challenging for any length of time, so a part-time or contract position may be a better fit for this transitional period.

Career Change Survivor Action Plan #2 – In a survivor situation, immediately begin to deal with the emotion of losing your job.  It will be difficult to think clearly and convince an employer that you can be a positive employee hire if you are depressed or feeling embarrassed about the job loss.  How many people do you suppose have lost their job at one time or another in their career?  Almost everyone has or will, so, don’t blame yourself.  Look at the positive contributions you bring to a job and focus on those.

Career Change Survivor Action Plan #3 – And, while you are focusing on those positive contributions, make sure you reflect those skills and talents in an updated resume.  Think back about projects where you made a valuable contribution or a team you worked with that accomplished a specific task, either under budget, ahead of time or both.  Once completed, have a trusted friend or advisor review your resume.

With an action plan in place, the last step is to work your J.O.B.S.

Journey – Surround yourself with supportive people who embrace your journey, even if they do not always understand it!  Find support in your own household and, if it is not there, then search out others who can be a positive support to you.

Objective – Develop an objective on how to best maintain your “mental health” in this kind of situation.  If finances are stressing you, making that budget or searching out that transition job may be the objective.  How you approach your job search – what industry, what job, what area – may be another focus.  Is this the right time to change careers?  That may be the objective.  Find and work your objective.

Balance – Find balance in your life while you are out of work.  Do not ditch that healthy routine while you are looking and even after you take that next position.  That quick walk around the block can clear the cobwebs and help the brain to think clearer.  Statistics show that one of the best relievers of stress is exercise.  End the chaos by “walking away” for a short time!

Sell – Sell yourself to everyone without being a “used car salesman.”  Focus on how to articulate the value you bring to an organization.  You never know when a contact may become the next source for an opening that fits you.  Get involved in social networking online, with your community and professional associations, or volunteer to work work part-time at a niche organization that fits your career target.

Working to find a job that is a career is one of the hardest jobs you will ever have to do.  Use your resources and call in all of your support and favors.  Seek out a professional if you need to hit the ground running and need their expertise to gear up faster.  Stay focused, work all of your leads and never give up!  Before you know it, you will be back to work again.

About the Author:  

david hults-2014David Hults is a nationally known career coach and speaker, as well as a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources from Webster University where he also completed graduate courses toward his MBA.  Since 1987, Hults is the author of five books, a CD coaching series and has created the most sought after interview flash card set, which makes the interview simplified and painless.  His experience in human resources led him to work for Express Scripts, a Fortune 500 company, as well as one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems, BJC.  He has been coaching individuals for more than 20 years on how to break through individual roadblocks while also delivering speeches across the nation discussing how to manage change in careers and organizations today. For more information, visit his website at http://activ8careers.com.

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Grant Moellering, mortgage loan officer, speaks with students at Community Break Week.

The Walker School of Business & Technology organizes a “community break” each term so students enrolled in evening courses can meet people from different programs and participate in a brief professional development opportunity.  This term, Community Break Week was held April 7-10, and Fifth-Third Bank served as the corporate sponsor.  

During Community Break Week, representatives from Fifth-Third Bank met with students to discuss financial solutions and potential internship and employment opportunities.  Students were also able to enjoy some refreshments before returning to class. 

Benjamin Ola. Akande, dean of the Walker School, said events such as this are important for students.  ”Through our Community Break Week partnership with Fifth-Third Bank, Walker students were given access to career opportunities at a local company, and they were able to network with professionals from the St. Louis business community.”

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Executive Leadership Workshop Participants

From banking to nonprofit, health care management, higher education and more, 25 executives representing a cross-section of industries received an educational experience of a lifetime at Webster University’s leadership workshop, Raising Your Game and Driving Superior Performance.  Held April 6-11, the program was co-presented by faculty members from Webster University’s George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology and Oxford University’s Saïd School of Business.

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Participants engage in leadership development activities

As part of the program, participants engaged in activities and field experiences designed to challenge their thinking about leadership, guide their leadership development and show them how to maximize their impact on their organization.  Among the sessions, Dr. David Pendleton, chartered psychologist, Oxford University associate fellow and Webster University visiting professor, offered a new approach to leadership that asks participants to consider what they bring to leadership and what they need from others.  Dr. Benjamin Ola. Akande, dean of the Walker School, facilitated a session on the power of purpose and shared strategies for connecting your passion with your organization’s mission and vision.  Oxford University faculty members Dr. Owen Darbishire, Dr. Jennifer King and Richard Olivier presented sessions on decision-making, building teams, setting strategic direction and inspirational leadership.

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Participants at Rams Park

Program participants also had the opportunity to learn from some of St. Louis’ top business leaders during field visits to area corporations.  As part of the leadership development program, Bill DeWitt lll, chairman and managing partner of the St. Louis Cardinals, shared advice for managing star performers; Kevin Demoff, executive vice president of football operations and chief operating officer of the St. Louis Rams, discussed the need for creating an environment that nurtures and attracts talent; John Messman, leadership development director at Boeing Corporation, presented strategies for developing leaders; and Joan Magruder, St. Louis Children’s Hospital president, explained how the hospital balances the daily needs of its patients while remaining focused on the future of medicine and healthcare management.

“Two years ago I had the distinct honor to attend the High Performance Leadership Seminar at Oxford University,” Dr. Akande said.  “The experience transformed me and enhanced my leadership capacity, so I wanted to bring Oxford to St. Louis.  This week, Webster University has done just that.  Our program has provided participants with a remarkable leadership experience thanks to our collaboration with a team of international educators and executives from the St. Louis business community.”

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Rodger Riney, Founder and CEO of Scottrade

Ten years ago, Rodger Riney, founder and chief executive officer of Scottrade, presented, “An Entrepreneurial History of Bricks & Clicks,” at the Walker Speaker Series.  During his lecture, he explained how he got started in the discount brokerage business, how it evolved from Scottsdale Securities to Scottrade, and how the Internet changed the industry.  

“My interest in the stock market began more than 50 years ago after my grandparents gave me some shares in Bethlehem Steel,” he said during his lecture. “A few years later, I was reading an article about Polaroid and how they were getting ready to introduce color film.  I thought in my infinite wisdom, ‘Gee, what a great idea, maybe I better buy some of that stock.’  And so I did.  And guess what happened?  Polaroid went up.  In my naiveté I thought, boy, is this easy.  All you have to do is do a little reading, buy it and it rises.  And very certainly, if had Polaroid would have gone down after I bought it, I wouldn’t be in the business I am in today.”

While much has changed in the decade since he shared his story at the Walker School, Mr. Riney continues to be a leader in the financial services industry and a committed contributor to higher education.  A successful entrepreneur, we celebrate Rodger Riney and invite you to view his lecture.

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fifth thirdJoin us for Community Break Week, April 7-10 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the East Academic Building Edward Jones Commons.  This event is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.

Each day, representatives from Fifth Third Bank will be available to discuss financial solutions for students and potential internship and employment opportunities.  Networking opportunities such as this are essential to your career, so please make plans to attend. Refreshments will be served.